Dance 'Grinding' Grinds to a Halt at Geneva High School

School officials have banned back-to-front dancing, starting with Friday's Black Light Dance, to keep sexually explicit moves off the dance floor.

On Friday night, students attending Geneva High School’s Black Light Dance will laugh, chat and listen to lots of loud music. They might even show off their moves on the dance floor.

But they will not “grind” with their dance partners, according to new rules set down by school administrators.

“We are not allowing back-to-front dancing anymore,” said Principal Tom Rogers. “We understand that this type of dancing is popular in the clubs, but Geneva High School is not a club, and we’re not going to create a club atmosphere at our dances.”

In a letter sent to parents Monday, Rogers defined “grinding” as a “sexually explicit” dance in which one partner stands behind the other while both are facing the same direction. The rear partner grasps the front partner by the hips or midsection and rubs his or her groin against the front partner’s backside. Sometimes the front partner bends over with his or her hands on the knees or floor, making the dance more sexually suggestive.

“Some students, when they dance back to front, don’t dance in a sexually suggestive manner. But in terms of enforcement, determining which couples are dancing back to front in an acceptable manner would become subjective. That’s why we’re not allowing any back-to-front dancing at all,” Rogers explained.

Officials also will start censoring disc jockeys’ play lists to remove bass-heavy music that encourages “grinding," he added.

Starting with Friday’s dance, all students attending a school dance will receive a wristband when they arrive. A chaperone or school administrator who sees students dancing inappropriately may remove students’ wristbands as an official warning. Students who are caught dancing unsafely or inappropriately after their wristbands have been removed can be banned from that dance and from all future GHS dances. Administrators will notify parents if their students have been kicked out of a dance.

If a large number of students are disobeying the new rules, administrators will stop the music and pause the dance. If students continue to dance inappropriately once the dance resumes, administrators can end the dance early.

Administrators drew up the new rules after students, parents and chaperones complained that dancers “grinding” disturbed them, Rogers said.

“Since we sent the letters out, we’ve received a number of e-mails and phone calls from parents thanking us for taking this stance,” he observed. “We’ve also received suggestions from students to hold themed dances and even offer dance instruction in styles like swing. I know that some students are upset with us, but I believe the majority agree with this action.”

Bev Nickelson February 12, 2011 at 04:15 PM
My daughter went to the Black Light dance last night and reports that it was "way more fun than homecoming!" In part because she and her friends got full use of the dance floor and didn't need to circumvent the cluster of grind dancers. I'm so very happy to know there is large group of GHS students who have enough respect for themselves to not grind, and enough self confidence to thumb their noses at the peer pressure to not attend the dance.
Geneva Student February 13, 2011 at 04:26 PM
This is ridiculous. There is a petition going around to let us grind with over 1000 signatures on it, so obviously it is not the majority that agree. Only 50 out of 2000 students bought tickets because we are so against it. A public school shouldn't have the right to restrict the way we dance and what songs we listen to.
average geneva kid February 13, 2011 at 07:08 PM
this is turning into the premise of footloose
Jim Casy February 13, 2011 at 07:14 PM
An '09 graduate (remember us?) and now a university student and taxpayer, I feel that the GHS administration (and its school board) needs to start focusing on things that matter, like academic and artistic attainment and an environment of free expression, instead of catering to what appears to me to be a social conservative minority. Such a focus on academics, arts, and free expression would do a better service to the students at a high school that claims that prepare its students for university because such a focus in the high schools is assumed of incoming university students. The other day, I was speaking with my mathematics professor about a theoretical topic that came up during the day's lecture; out of the students in the class, I knew the topic the best, but even I needed clarification. The professor said that it was topic that was to have been covered in detail in high school, and I agreed with him on that and on how high schools need to prepare their students better. From that conversation, it is clear that I was schooled at one of the best public high schools in Illinois. But, GHS has room to improve, and this trend that I have noticed there lately--I have siblings still in attendance--of moving from a high school more toward a madrassa or detention center is counter-productive. (Indeed, one must use a buzzer to enter the building now.) For April's school board election, I shall be watching for candidates who share in this enlightened vision of improvement.
John Smith February 13, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Jim Casey, I am glad that you are so interested in current events and that you took the time to respond to this issue. I am also impressed that you have such an active interest in school board elections and paying attention to the issues. Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a teacher in a suburban school district and consider myself to be be a liberal. I am agnostic, very far from a social conservative. That being said, I recently attended a dance held at the school I work in as part of my supervisory hours I must put in. As a father of two young children, I cannot tell you how disgusted and appalled by how inappropriate the "dancing" was at this event. In all honestly, it was glorified dry humping. When I asked fellow supervisors if this was common, all of them told me it was and that there was nothing we could do to stop it. When I would politely ask students to dance more appropriately, I was laughed at, ignored, or given dirty looks. No offense Jim, but this was as far removed from a madrassa as you could be. As far as your concerns about better preparing students for the future, I believe there is always room for improvement. That being said, issues about curriculum and issues about discipline are dealt with very differently, and one would have little to no influence on the other. There are rules and regulations that need to be followed at school, in work settings, and society. I applaud GHS for taking a stand on this issue.
Jim Casy February 13, 2011 at 11:32 PM
@John Smith: "Madrassa" was probably a poor choice of word. My meaning that it was heading in that general direction but that it has a long, long way to go. I tend to agree that grinding can be rather lewd and offensive at its worst. That is, I argue that most people aren't dancing in this way to be sexually explicit (as some may believe). I personally disagree with the worst of this practice; most students likely, at some level, do as well. My main concerns are: (1) Too much time is being dedicated to this issue. I saw the letter that was mailed to each parent, and it was a veritable manifesto. Clearly, a large amount of time was dedicated to the effort of writing up an extensive set of rules for dances which occur perhaps three or four times per year. There are probably more pressing priorities. (2) It's another aspect of a trend toward squelching student expression. (By expression, I am actually not speaking of the grinding itself.) My *understanding* is that a number of students were mounting petitions or initiating dialogue in the school newspaper against (0r even just to discuss) these measures--perhaps this effort is misguided--but these students were threatened with school suspension or other disciplinary action for doing this. That is excessive. But, it is not surprising given trends toward more authoritarian administration at GHS in the last three or so years (including my last two years there). I spare this forum of these details. Just a few thoughts.
John Locke February 14, 2011 at 02:23 AM
I think every reasonable person, young or old, can agree that at some point public behavior can cross the line of what is acceptable. As Jim above stated, "I personally disagree with the worst of this practice; most students likely, at some level, do as well." A few years ago, the adults supervising the dances were free to exercise judgment and if they saw behavior that they felt crossed the line, they could tell the offenders to knock it off. Unfortunately, the common-sense enforcement policies of the past leave the teachers and school district open to legal liability. If someone claims the restrictions are being enforced in an arbitrary manner - hello 'violation-of-my-civil-liberties-lawsuit'. So, the district has to come up with a written policy, inform every student and parent and have a clear-cut procedure for enforcement. I'm sure the time and energy to draft the policies to prevent a handful of attention-starved kids from dry-humping in front of their peers wasn't something the administration enjoyed doing, but unfortunately it was a necessity in the current litigious environment.
reafly February 14, 2011 at 03:57 AM
Just ask the kids if it would be alright if they saw their parents dancing like that. Parents, would you have the nerve to dance like that in front of your kids? I don't consider Footloose, VH-1, and MTV to be a compass to form a young persons idea of what acting with class is and conducting one in public should be about. To state those examples as justification for freedom of expression is laughable and weak. I appauld the students that rose above the norm and took a stand. It was obvious the adults were remiss in dealing with this long ago.
Bev Nickelson February 14, 2011 at 01:21 PM
"Geneva Student" - check your numbers; it was more than 50. And reafly - I love that idea! Let the parents and faculty get out there and start grinding it up, and I'll bet you the witnesses will never feel the desire to grind again, haha. I like the spirit of students wanting to rise up and take a stand -- but in this case the cause is simply not worth it. The school leaders are there to set boundaries, they set them, deal with it and move on to something important. Meanwhile, the students with their priorities straight had an awesome time at the dance!
Sandy Klimowski February 15, 2011 at 11:46 AM
The high school years are a learning experience for everyone, not just book learning, but social acceptbility learning. These young adults have learned a lot. Those that stood up for themselves and faced the issue forcing the new school policy learned that their voices do count. Those that are against the policy, and those that grind, learned that they are held accountable to socially acceptable behavior. I say congratulations to those who stood up and forced the issue. I'm sure they made the dance more enjoyable for everyone who was there.
Rick Nagel (Editor) February 16, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Help, readers! Someone sent me a tip saying Geneva's "no grinding" policy was mentioned last night on "Chelsea Lately: TV show. My daughter even asked me: "Dad, did you have anything to do with this?" I did not, of course. Please let me know if you've heard anything about that. Apparently, the story is getting a lot of national attention.
Laura Rush February 16, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Not only was it on Chelsea Lately, but WGN Radio had a discussion yesterday with John Williams about it. I had to call in since I was there (doing coatcheck) and promote how great the no grinding dance was. All the kids there seemed to be having a great time. Even my husband, who is in MI this week, heard it on the Laura Ingram show (a nationally syndicated radio show) Tom Rogers was a guest on the show. I think it is positive PR for Geneva as a town that took a stance on this!
Kimberly Kozar February 16, 2011 at 09:04 PM
I think it's just great that we are even having the conversation. It's about time we start to communicate about these sensitive issues rather than just bury our heads in the sand and leave our kids to feel their way around these expectations at a time they are shaping their values. I still love to dance and when I was in high school, we had a community teen center that offered dancing every Friday night. There were rules that were clearly established and expected to be followed which made for a safe place with predictable structure. In my opinion, there is no upside to public display of dirty dancing like that we see in the form of "grinding" at this age level. I could be wrong, but I can't see what will be lost if those in favor of this "free expression" have to refrain. I agree, most of our kids would turn ten shades of red if we "expressed ourselves" this way, and there would be a relentless verbal plea to stop. I hear it even now if I begin to skip down the sidewalk or dare sing out loud which all really is quite harmless (ok, maybe that's all a matter of opinion if it actually causes pain - LOL).
Michelle Gregory February 19, 2011 at 06:37 PM
As a parent of young children, I am so thankful for the school's previous action towards some of the sexual behaviors that have been seen at the school dances. Sometimes it seems as though our society thinks that kids of this age are old enough to make grown-up decisions about how they act and behave without any adult retrictions and that is simply not true. Research has shown that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 22-23 yrs.. These kids are still kids that need adults who are both reasonable and have the courage to guide them through these fun and challenging high school years. It is really great to see a public school that cares enough about our kids to do the "bad guy" job of setting limits on unacceptable behavior even if it means making some people upset. On a side note, there are so many great kids that are apparently happy about this restriction. All of these kids will get the chance to become an adult someday and enjoy life to the fullest. Then they will get the wonderful opportunity to determine acceptable and healthy limits for the kids of their upcoming generation:) Thanks again to Geneva High School. My deepest appreciation, Mother from Geneva


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